Mich. law­mak­ers ap­prove right-to-work leg­is­la­tion

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byjohn Flesher and­j­ef­fkaroub

LANS­ING, MIch. — Repub­li­cans rushed right-towork leg­is­la­tion through the Michi­gan Leg­is­la­ture on Thurs­day, draw­ing rau­cous protests from hun­dreds of union sup­port­ers, some of whom were pep­per-sprayed by po­lice when they tried to storm the Se­nate cham­ber.

With six-vote mar­gins in both cham­bers, the House and Se­nate ap­proved mea­sures pro­hibit­ing pri­vate unions from re­quir­ing that nonunion em­ploy­ees pay fees.

Sep­a­rate leg­is­la­tion deal­ing with pub­lic-sec­tor unions was ex­pected to come later.

Be­cause of rules re­quir­ing a five-day de­lay be­tween votes in the two cham­bers on the same leg­is­la­tion, fi­nal enactment ap­pears un­likely un­til next week. Repub­li­can Gov. Rick Sny­der, who pre­vi­ously had said re­peat­edly that rightto-work was “not on my agenda,” told re­porters Thurs­day he would sign the mea­sures.

A vic­tory in Michi­gan would give the right-towork move­ment its strong­est foothold yet in the Rust Belt re­gion, where or­ga­nized la­bor al­ready has suf­fered sev­eral body blows. Repub­li­cans in In­di­ana and Wis­con­sin re­cently pushed through leg­is­la­tion curb­ing union rights, spark­ing mas­sive protests.

Even be­fore the Mich- igan bills sur­faced, pro­test­ers streamed in­side the Capi­tol pre­par­ing for what ap­peared in­evitable af­ter Sny­der, House Speaker Jase Bol­ger and Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Randy Richardville an­nounced at a news con­fer­ence they were putting the is­sue on a fast track.

“This is all about tak­ing care of the hard-work­ing work­ers in Michi­gan, be­ing pro-worker and giv­ing them free­dom to make choices,” Sny­der said.

“The goal isn’t to di­vide Michi­gan; it is to bring Michi­gan to­gether,” Sny­der said.

But Democrats said the leg­is­la­tion — and Repub­li­cans’ tac­tics — would poi­son the state’s po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere.

Lt. Gov. Brian Cal­ley re­peat­edly gaveled for or­der dur­ing the Se­nate de­bate as Democrats at­tacked the leg­is­la­tion to ap­plause from pro­test­ers in the gal­ley.

At one point, a man yelled, “We will re­mem­ber in Novem­ber.”

The de­ci­sion to push for­ward in the wan­ing days of the Leg­is­la­ture’s lame-duck ses­sion in­fu­ri­ated out­num­bered Dem- ocrats, who re­sorted to par­lia­men­tary ma­neu­vers to slow ac­tion but were pow­er­less to block the bills.

House Democrats did walk out briefly Thurs­day in protest of the Capi­tol be­ing closed.

About 2,500 vis­i­tors were in­side the Capi­tol, where their shouts re­ver­ber­ated off stone halls and fre­quently could be heard in­side the or­nate cham­bers.

Af­ter re­peat­edly in­sist­ing dur­ing his first two years in of­fice that right-to-work was not on his agenda, Sny­der re­versed course Thurs­day, a month af­ter vot­ers de­feated a bal­lot ini­tia­tive that would have barred such mea­sures un­der the state con­sti­tu­tion.

Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Gretchen Whit­mer said she was “livid.”

“Th­ese guys have lied to us all along the way,” she said. “They are push­ing through the most di­vi­sive leg­is­la­tion they could come up with in the dark of night, at the end of a lame-duck ses­sion and then they’re go­ing to high­tail it out of town. It’s cow­ardly.”

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